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January 23, 2004 - Image 49

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-01-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

CIVI7V eViLLATt

DINNER

5pm - 1 1 pm ■ Sunday - Wednesday
5pm - Midnight ■ Thursday - Saturday

visual complement as we watch
falling skulls ricochet off banisters.
It's a macabre vision, accentuated
by Philip Glass' soundtrack, which
appropriately conveys, in Morris'
words, "existential dread."
It is this dread that underscores
the film in more than just the musi-
cal soundtrack. The film calls into
question the inherent contradiction
in the claim made of World War I,
that It was "a war to end all wars."
r: Filmmaker Errol Morris became
(9c) interested in McNamara because of an (Can there ever be such a thing?) It
"endless fascination" with the extent to also wants its viewers to question
the limits of human knowledge, the
which 7people who engage in evil
value
of historiography and, ulti-
believe in some real sense that they are
mately,
the nature of truth.
doing good."
Film critic Roger Ebert, writing
about another one of Morris' films,
cameras, heightening the eye contact
observed: "We often leave [Morris']
between audience and subject.
documentaries not sure if he liked
Despite the sense of candor accen-
his
subjects or was ridiculing them.
tuated by the Interrotron, what is
He
doesn't make it easy for us with
fascinating about the film is the way
simple
moral labels." The same may
in which McNamara remains a
well
be
said of The Fog of War.
cipher. Is his apparent forthrightness
After 106 riveting minutes, we are
a politically savvy facade? ("Don't
left re-evaluating McNamara's histori-
answer the question you were
cal presence, wondering what prompt-
asked," he advises at the end of the
ed
his actions. Pondering "what if."
film. "Answer the question you wish
At.the
end of the film, McNamara
you were asked.")

who
has
seemed willing to engage
Not only is McNamara ethically
in
fleeting
intimate
disclosures —
ambiguous, he understands the
refuses to answer what appears to be a
nature of his own ethical ambiguity:
relatively safe question about his
The only thing that prevented him
involvement
in the conflicts. Does he
from being considered a war crimi-
feel
guilty?
Responsible?
nal, he concedes, was the fact that
His thin lips close in an uncom-
his side won.
fortable
silence. It is reminiscent of
McNamara clearly wants us to
Shakespeare's
most compelling vil-
understand the Machiavellian pre-
lain, Othello's Iago, who resists clo-
cept: that it is possible for the ends
sure to the tragedy by his unwilling-
to justify the means. And perhaps-
ness to explain unfathomable
this in itself is exculpatory. Just as
motives. He says, bluntly, "Demand
there is McNamara's role in
me
nothing: what you know, you
destruction of epic proportions, so
know:
/ From this time forth I never
too — he wants us to see — he is
will speak word."
responsible for saving lives.
Perhaps McNamara's conclusion is
In one particularly intriguing
implicitly this: For some atrocities,
scene, McNamara details his role in
there can be no explanations.
the invention of seatbelts during his
tenure at the Ford Motor Co., where
he began working in 1946 (and later
The Fog of War screens at the
assumed the presidency of the com-
Detroit Film Theatre at the
pany in 1960).
Detroit Institute of the Arts 7 and
Analyzing data from automobile
9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4
accidents, McNamara comes to the
and 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 23-25.
conclusion the problem of car crash-
For more information or to reserve
es amounts to a problem with "pack-
tickets, call (313) 833-3237.
aging." Just as eggs don't break when
The film also is scheduled to
they are properly packaged, neither
open Friday, Jan. 30, at either
— he determines — will human
Landmark's Maple Art Theatre
beings. To test this theory,
in Bloomfield Township or
McNamara dropped human skulls,
Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak;
variously "packaged," from the stair-
(248) 542-0180. Check your
well in the building where he lived.
local movie listings.
While he narrates this curious sci-
ence, Morris presents us with the



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1/23

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49

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